Launching a business is an exciting time in your life and a journey that can be highly rewarding. Before you embark there are a number of personal, financial and legal issues that you should consider in order to ensure that you give yourself and your business idea the best chances of success.
These following steps, coupled with your passion and drive, will help you navigate the process of turning your vision into a reality.
1. Start with an idea
Asking yourself why you want to start a business is a great way of coming up with the right idea. Is it solely to increase your income, or geographically freedom? Maybe you want to work from home and spend more time with you family. All these are good starting points for honing your perfect business ideas.
In addition, consider the following: Is the idea based on something you have a passion for? Does it fit your strengths? Do you have the required skills? Tolerance for risk? And last but not least are you read to start a business and see it through to the end.
2. Perform market research
Market research is a critical part of starting any business. Without conducting this research you won’t know if your idea is viable.
Start by researching your rivals, look at both the success stories and failures. Research what the successful ones are doing and how they are doing it. Think of the services or products they offer, and how you can differentiate your offerings. Also, get info on the size of the market this can be done using online tools, or traditional methods like counting footfall or surveys.
3. Make a business plan
Some entrepreneurs think business plans only serve to stunt creativity; others will tell you that creating a business plan is an integral part of starting a new business. Regardless of these opposing views, if your business requires outside funding you’re going to need one, as a potential investor will want detailed financial projections, operational goals and growth forecasts.
Whether it’s just a napkin business plan, or a detailed description with in-depth analytical research and results, writing it down will enable you to clearly see what your next steps should be.
4. Get funding in-place (if needed)
The type of funding you require will dictate which lending institution you approach and there’s good news for today’s start-up businesses as there are varied funding options available.
You can take a loan with your local bank, apply for a small business grant, get equity finance from outside investors (think Dragons Den/Shark Tank), or crowd funding. What ever way you raise the finance needed be sure that it suits your business model, you’re comfortable with the terms and conditions and you can meet the repayments.
5. Choose the best business structure
Before you can register your business, you need to choose the right business structure. The three choices are: Sole proprietor, a partnership or a Limited liability company. There are pros and cons to each of them, so choose carefully as it will affect your personal liability, taxes and accountancy needs.
6. Create a winning logo
Company branding has always been a vital part of every business. It distinguishes you from your competition, promotes your business, allows new customers to know you, and encourages customer loyalty.
In today’s media-influenced market place, branding has become cheaper, more accessible and easier to use. Now you can capture your audience’s attention and get your message across almost instantly, and a great way of achieving this is by having an eye-catching logo, one that instantly engages with your target audience and does the talking for you, and for those who don’t have a lot of cash to splash a logo creator is a good option.
7. Build a prototype
A prototype is a test sample of your eventual product or service. It doesn’t have to be perfect first time around, an inexpensive version will do at this stage. Building one enables you to test your design, evaluate customer feedback, and make any necessary improvements. Once you`ve tested it out on your future audience you can then go back and bring your original vision to the marketplace.
8. Come-up with a Marketing Plan
There a lot of ways to reach future customers. If you are an online business, you can use digital channels like social media marketing and SEO. If your business if offline, your marketing plan might include flyers, print advertising, the local radio station and community social media. In the early stages, it can be trial and error, review your marketing strategy regularly and adjust to what’s getting you the best results.
9. Get your suppliers and logistics in place
Now you need to contact suppliers, haggle out the best deal, arrange for a small quantity of test samples to be made, and agree terms. Then you are onto logistics. Are you importing your product or having it made locally? If you are importing you will need to start a shipping account and get an importers license. Or it might be more convenient for you to use a freight forwarder who will look after all of this for you. If you source locally, then you will need to a local supply chain in place.
10. Be ready/prepare for future growth
If you speculate your future growth correctly, you can put a plan in place to ensure that you’re ready for success. Get your orders in early with your supplier, check sales trends within your marketplace, employ the extra staff you need, assess your resources and pre arrange funding if needed. Now you have a proven income, funding will easier to come by, so this is a great time to scale up and build upon your success.